Posted by: Donna Cunningham | June 24, 2010

The Best of Readers’ Q & A about the 3rd House and Mercury

©6-24-2010 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

 Our recent explorations of Mercury and the 3rd house produced some thought-provoking questions from readers. Many of you who subscribe by email seldom see the comment section. Others look at the comment section when a post comes out, but don’t follow the thread as it develops. I’m reproducing the best questions—and my answers—here so they aren’t buried under later posts.

Sherry notes that both siblings and communication are attributed to the 3rd house and asks,”As often as not our siblings and relatives turn out to be very different from ourselves or live with in different sub-cultures. Certainly not anyone we would choose as friends or associates. How does this relate to verbal acumen and communication?”

My reply:  So glad you brought that up. We learn a lot about communication from our brothers and sisters growing up, like when to talk to our parents about something and when to stay the heck out of their way.

They can also be a plus or a minus in learning basic skills and in elementary education (which the 3rd house rules). Sibling rivalry, for instance, can either spur you on or crush you–an abusive sibling can resent you for “showing off” and so you learn to hide your abilities. If they ridicule us, we grow up afraid of being laughed at for our thoughts, so it’s harder to share.

In communities that are small enough that everybody knows everybody, the younger siblings often are expected to live up to or live down the reputation of the older ones. Regardless of the size of the community, the same kinds of comparisons happen within the family circle. (“Why aren’t you more like your sister?” or, “You’re going to be the football captain, just like your brother.”)

There’s much more to say on this topic, but this is a beginning sense of the roles siblings play in shaping our relationship to our surroundings and in our willingness to communicate. They may or may not be present in our adult lives, but how they interacted with us when we were growing up leaves a permanent imprint on us that’s not easy to shake off, and that imprint is shown by the 3rd house. 

See the links below to other articles in this series, especially on Neptune in the 3rd and on Mercury-Pluto and Mercury-Saturn combinations for more detail on how this plays out in people’s lives.  (Don’t miss the comment sections on those  for some vivid examples that readers shared about how relationships with their siblings in childhood affected them as adults!)

Brian Clark, a fine Australian astrologer, wrote a good book about this topic, now out of print, but maybe available on or Free Paperback Swap (The Astrology and Psychology of Sisters and Brothers)

Opal asks,” What in the chart would indicate a person’s way of thinking, as opposed to their communication style? One is inner and the other outer, and I often wonder whether Mercury would cover both, or is there something else I’m missing.

My reply:  What a good observation, Opal…opalescent, almost! It’s certainly something to ponder. I’d say that what we CAN communicate does originate in our way of thinking, but what we DO communicate comes through a filter of social conditioning.

That is, if you grow up in a religious household and community, you’re likely to censor your more outrageous ideas or anything that challenges those in authority, and not to let on about your sexual urges or other things that would earn disapproval.

That tendency to self-censoring sounds almost like Mercury’s aspects, or something like Jupiter or Saturn.

On the other hand, Mercury is the mimic, and so, however we think, we are naturally influenced by the communication patterns of those in our immediate surroundings–like regional speech, with its accents, idioms, and peculiar ways of expressing things.

Another facet of what is communicated is how willing other people are to listen to our ideas–how much encouragement we get for expressing our thoughts.

I suspect that may have to do with the aspects–a Jupiter trine to Mercury might show that others encourage us to expand on our thoughts; a Saturn square or opposition might signify a repressive response, especially from parents and authority figures.

For instance, a person with Mercury in Aquarius in the 3rd might have many brilliant and inventive but unconventional ideas, but if it were square Saturn in Taurus in the 6th, the response in the (traditional) workplace would be anything but receptive to those ideas, so the person might either squelch them or not bring them up at work.

Sabrina adds, “But I feel there is something else, there is a lot of nonverbal communication, and how do we connect the conscious and subconscious processes of thought, or at least how do we correlate them in astrology. Some would point to the 12th house.”

 My reply:  Body language? I don’t know–I’d have to think. That might be more Mars, for motor skills, or possibly the 1st house, for the outer shell of ourselves that people see.

Syd asks: It is said that people with a strong Mercury signature are natural born liars. How do you feel about this? Which placements do you think could show this?

My reply:  I won’t lie to you, some Mercurial types ARE liars, but we all lie about many things. I lie to my sister and tell her she’s a great cook when she sooooo isn’t–so does everyone in our family. Thankfully, she’s never shown the slightest interest in this blog or anything else I’ve written, so I can get away with revealing the truth here.

(Whoever wrote that Truth is Relative never attended one of my family reunions.)

Maybe every planet and every sign tells lies.
Neptune shows where we lie about our addictions and codependency, to ourselves and others.
Jupiter shows where we lie to ourselves and others about having the answers to many things and the truth about practically everything.
Venus shows where we lie about what we really look like and who we really love and pretend to be nice at all times.
Saturn shows where we lie about having everything handled.
And so on.

Joyce Mason of The Radical Virgo theorizes, “Uranus in close aspect to planets in Virgo or Gemini or to Mercury would have to amp up Merkiness to some degree. There’s that whole theory that Uranus is the “higher vibration” of Mercury. I feel like my close Uranus/Virgo Sun square is often like having my finger in a light socket. Instead of frying my brain, it seems to make it fire, somewhat like an air popcorn popper. There’s a whole rock show going on in my mind at all times.”

 My reply:  Higher octave is actually what they call it.  The thought that Uranus is the higher octave of Mercury comes from the Alice Bailey, theosophy strain of astrology’s history I think.  It means, basically, that Uranus is what Mercury would be if you kicked it up a notch.  It’s a good theory–but sometimes not the higher version in the highest sense–a strong Uranus can be like Mercury on Crack.

Writing teacher, EJ Runyon asks. Does a well-aspected 3rd House or a certain Mercury aspect denote genius? If yes, what houses other than third would be involved?
What other planets contribute, with Mercury, to denoting a level of genius?

My reply: I’m not so sure the 3rd especially shows genius–or any particular house. Maybe there are 12 kinds of genius, depending on the house emphasis–I’m reminded of that series earlier here about house stelliums. (Newcomers, use the search engine top right hand side of this blog to find it.)

I was toying with the idea that the Mercury score plus the Uranus score could be an index of genius. However, the scores aren’t all that precise. Lois Rodden’s research seemed to say that Mercury-Saturn aspects shows genius–but maybe they are an indication of applying the mind in a serious and disciplined fashion.

Then again, we come back to the article on 4 kinds of smart (link below) and to how intellect (AIR element) is only one measure of intelligence. I’ve known some earth geniuses too. There are No easy answers to your question–if astrology even answers it at all.

When Kathryn mentioned having writer’s block, I replied:

I find that it’s not helpful to label a period of less writing as a “writing block,” for that turns it into a problem.  Really, there are just different ways of using Mercury’s energy–writing vs. using up all the energy in talking or in jobs that rely on communication. I think that was the difficulty with our Mercury poster child I used as an example on the test, with the 5 planets in Gemini including Sun and Moon. She was a well-loved guidance counselor who spent all day talking with troubled teens. You tend not to want to write when you get home from something like that.

If you want to get any writing done, you have to turn off the phone, stay off email, ignore the texting, and not talk to people about what you’re GOING to write. My mentor, Rod Chase used to tell me that if I wanted to get somewhere in the field of writing, I had to learn to “dam up” my Mercury energy and channel it into writing.  (I just unearthed another article on this blog  that might help:  Writer’s Block–or Waiting for the Right Astrological Window?)

I’ll close with a metaphor I came up with about Mercury and the mind this week. It’s like a jumble table at a thrift shop–you never know what you’ll unearth as you sort through it:

  • some surprisingly valuable discoveries
  • some that are marked down because they’re irregular
  • some with potential that need a lot of work
  • some that are passee and need updating
  • some that are too shopworn and tired to be much use
  • some that need to be tossed out, as they’re full of holes. 

Readers,  do any of these placements ring true  for your life as well.  Also, what have you discovered about your own mind in the course of this series?  Tell us about it in the comment section. 

LOST BROTHERS AND SISTERS:  Several people have written in to say that they had half or step siblings they didn’t get to know until later. CJ Wright of Auntie Moon wants birth data from people who were adopted or who spent periods of time in their childhood where they were in foster care or lived with adults other than their parents ~ grandparents, other relatives, families of friends, childrens’ homes, or other environments, to see what placements go along with those experiences.  I’m guessing that an outer planet near the IC is one signature, but I could be off.   See the announcement at and  write to her at

Readers Ask Series:  (Readers’ questions and my Answers are in the Comment Sections)

Related Posts on Skywriter:

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  1. Can you comment on Mercury retrograde, either at birth or progressed? what of progression into another sign?

    • I definitely feel the shift of signs with progressed Mercury–mine has gone through 5 signs since I was born. Now it’s in Libra, and there’s a distinct difference from the 25 years or so it was in work-horse Virgo. I actually, for the first time in my life, look for a charming and gracious way of telling people things they won’t want to hear.

      For instance, I say things now like, “Oh, I am really not an expert on natal or progressed Mercury retrograde, so rather than feed you a line of BS–uhm, I mean, rather than mislead you, I’ll suggest you get Erin Sullivan’s definitive book on Retrograde planets.” Like that. Donna

      • Oh boy, that is so true. My sister’s progressed mercury is in Libra as well, and she’s my official buffer (mine is in Aries now) when it comes to talk important matters with our Mom. I mean well, but I need her to translate.

      • Mine’s in progressed Libra too! However because natally it’s in Cancer I don’t really see a shift as the one you describe:

        “a charming and gracious way of telling people things”. It just feels the same, kind of.

        A friend of mine is having a baby around August. Her daughter, depending of the day of birth, will have her Progressed Mercury turn retrograde sometime in her childhood (maybe around 11, I don’t know yet). I think that could indicate problems at school.

        Also, when you’re older (70, 80…), mercury turning retrograde (in the Progressed chart) could that indicate increasing mental difficulties, I wonder? I know, you’re not an expert :p

      • Hmm, I honestly don’t know the answer to that for an older person. Maybe some memory loss, maybe just the occasion where they start writing their memoirs because everybody who might object to the truth coming out would be dead already. There is a writing course in a lot of senior centers where people write their memories 13 different topics. I took it as my first offcial senior activity when I turned 60. It was a lot like the life review process we supposedly go through right after we die.

        I was born when Mercury had just turned direct and will never have Mercury RX by progression (or any other planet, for that matter) even if I live to be 90. That’s a blessing because my memory was always terrible! Donna

  2. Also..I loved the jumble table analogy!

  3. A lot of learning this week for sure. It was a good time to remember how powerful words and communication are and our responsibility to use them for good, or at least with our best intention. I had several moments that brought me back to that thought. I just had a conversation about it with a close friend as she’s going through a transit of mars over her mercury (and viceversa) aspecting both natal and transiting pluto and she’s feeling it!
    Thanks Donna!

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